With a proud smile, Caroline Falterbaum opens one of her self-brewed beers. The 23-year-old German studies brewing and beverage technology at one of the world’s most renowned study programs for beer brewing: the Technical University of Munich-Weihenstephan (TUM Weihenstephan), in Freising, Bavaria. “Though I knew I wanted to study a natural science-related study program, I wasn’t sure at first which particular direction I wanted to go academically.” An internship in New Zealand after her Abitur (high school) graduation finally brought clarity to her: “There, I worked in a brewery, which is what I really enjoyed. At the same time, I found out that TUM Weihenstephan offers a brewing degree program. So I decided to go for it because the program’s many study topics makes it so extraordinary.”
Matthias Ebner is an alumnus of TUM Weihenstephan’s brewing and beverage technology study program and is also part of the team that manages the degree program. He knows first-hand that brewers have to go through a complex education before they are able to brew different kinds of beer. “In order to learn brewing, our students need interdisciplinary knowledge – from physics, biologics, chemistry, engineering science and economics,” Ebner explains. This broad knowledge pays off – the job perspectives for graduates are numerous. “We have nearly 100 percent employment among program alumni because our students can perform many different kinds of beer-related jobs, from production management to brewing engineering.”
Depending on the mixture of the four main ingredients – hops, barley, yeast and malt – brewers create different beer varieties. Do you know how many types of hops exist?
A Drink with Distinctive Taste
The complexities of brewing
Though the science behind brewing is complex, there are only four main ingredients used when brewing beer according to Germany’s Beer Purity Law of 1516: hops, water, yeast and malt. But it takes deep knowledge to know how to differentiate the ingredients and in which amounts to use each of them in order to create high-quality varieties of beer. “There are more than 300 different processing steps necessary to get the beer into the bottle. It only needs a variation of one of these steps’ adjusting screws to change the taste of the beer entirely.”
Juggling ingredients and varieties
In total, there are 40 types of malt, 100 different types of hops, and even 200 types of yeast, any of which can change the taste of the beer, depending on their mixture. These main ingredients require specific qualities in which they can grow. One important ingredient is hops because it gives beer its distinctive bitter taste. But hops is particular: It needs deep soil which is clayey-sandy and root permeable. Fortunately for the German beer industry, the soil conditions for growing hops in Bavaria’s Hallertau area are very good.
Beer ingredients must also have specific characteristics. Malting barley, for example, is required to have a low protein percentage. Its grains also need to have a high germination capacity and a minimum size. Due to these strict requirements, oftentimes barley harvests are not accepted for processing into malt – resulting in financial losses for farmers. However, malting barley is a valuable crop, both for the farmers who successfully produce it, and the consumers who will ultimately ingest it. Malting barley grains contain numerous nutrients, carbohydrates, mineral nutrients, trace elements and vitamins.
Improving the taste
Yeast also plays a major role in beer brewing. “Yeast has a big impact on the aroma and entire taste of beer,” explains Brigitte Skadhauge, Vice President for Carlsberg Research Laboratory. Over the years, the Carlsberg Laboratory has delivered groundbreaking research on culturing pure yeast strains, the pH-scale and the discovery of sexual reproduction by yeast cells, with many scientific results that have revolutionized modern brewing. Carlsberg’s founder, J.C. Jacobsen, was driven by the question: How do you brew best types of beer of the highest quality? In 1875, he therefore set up the Carlsberg Laboratory, one of the first industrial laboratories in the world, convinced that he needed to understand the chemistry of beer and the physiology of the organisms involved. “We established our own yeast research group to understand all of the biochemical processes of yeast. Today we only make use of conventional breeding techniques,” Skadhauge continues. “One of the breeding targets is the elimination of certain unwanted flavors in yeast, such as diacetyl or sulphidic taste, which consumers are not so happy about having in their beer.”
Skadhauge also observes a rising demand for non-alcoholic beer. “Across different markets, this is a growing trend. Consumers don’t want to forego beer’s distinctive taste. Alcohol-free versions give people an alternative that still tastes like beer.” Therefore, Carlsberg has developed several beers as well as new fermentation technologies for non-alcoholic beer production.
One of the breeding targets is the elimination of certain unwanted flavors in yeast, such as diacetyl or sulphidic taste, which consumers are not so happy about.
Beer – an economic powerhouse
Next to its pleasures for consumers, beer also brings economic opportunities. “With 2.3 million European jobs linked to the beer sector, this is an important pillar of Europe’s economy,” states Pierre-Olivier Bergeron, Secretary General of The Brewers of Europe, which represents the interests of 8,500 European breweries.
The organization advocates the creation of conditions that allow brewers to continue to freely, cost-effectively and responsibly brew and market beer across Europe. For example, they sensitize EU decision makers on the employment impact of the brewing sector – with success: ”I have the impression there is a realization across Europe that jobs in the brewing sector are linked to many others, such as agriculture, machinery and marketing,” states Bergeron. In total, the European beer sector today generates around 42 billion euros in tax revenues and 50 billion euros in value added.
Beer – a social beverage
The social and cheerful image of beer also helps make it popular. “Beer is a team product because it is connecting people, independently from their social status,” states Ebner. “Adults can enjoy beer when cheering on their favorite soccer club, and also during a fine multi-course menu, just like a good wine. There are different sorts of beer for every occasion.”
Even after its 5,000-year history, beer continues to be popular globally – with well-established traditional flavors, and many new varieties are on the horizon. To provide consumers quality beer experiences, specialized brewers and scientists apply broad knowledge. In fact, it’s especially the human element that gives beer its distinctive taste, says Matthias Ebner: “Good beer most of all needs lifeblood and passion.”
I have the impression there is a realization across Europe that jobs in the brewing sector are linked to many others, such as agriculture, machinery and marketing.
Alcohol-free beer – the athlete’s choice
Lukas Lai, physiotherapist and athletics coach of the German premier league basketball club Giessen 46ers, talks about the effects and benefits of alcohol-free beer for athletes.
Why is alcohol-free beer so popular with athletes?
Alcohol-free beers are isotonic. They have about the same composition as human blood. This means beer can quickly compensate for loss of water and minerals in athletes after physical exertion. In addition, beer is very popular with athletes because, unlike other isotonic sports drinks, it has relatively little sugar.
Does this lead to a performance increase in athletes?
Yes, because non-alcoholic beer can improve the athlete´s immune system. It also decreases inflammation after a hard workout. This means athletes regenerate very quickly and thus can train harder.
Which kinds of alcohol-free beer are most beneficial?
In particular, alcohol-free wheat beer is said to have a positive effect on athletes, according to current studies, as it contains health-promoting polyphenols. These are phytochemicals that scavenge free radicals that form under stress conditions in the body and damage the cells.
In particular, alcohol-free wheat beer is said to have a positive effect on athletes, according to current studies, as it contains health-promoting polyphenols.